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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
It’s an oft overused expression, but in this case it really did apply. Getting the chance to watch the Opening Ceremonies from a seat inside the Olympic Stadium was truly a once in a lifetime deal. The pre-Athlete procession show was like Cirque du Soleil on steroids with a Greek history lesson thrown in for good measure.
My vantage point was a lower-level seat on the opposite end of where the torch was eventually lit. Not the greatest spot to see all in the action in the middle of the giant “lake,” but a good place to catch the expressions on athletes faces as they made their way around the oval-stadium floor, and to get a closer look at the siren that led the timeline procession. Near as I could tell she wasn’t wearing much more than body paint from the waist up. I’m really curious what NBC did with that. You can’t write that off to a wardrobe malfunction.
I didn’t see any of the cyclists (which doesn’t mean they weren’t there), but you couldn’t blame them for taking a pass. Dede Barry told me that they’d been warned that participation was a 12-hour commitment.
One Aussie athlete I talked to said that they’d been told there would be a video screen in the pre-precession holding area (the gymnastics hall), but instead all they found were drinks. She also told me that the big white sheet they pulled over the athletes in the center of the stadium near the end of the ceremony was in part to hide the fact that so many people were bailing out.
Still, if you had a seat in the stands, it was an amazing (albeit extremely long) show. The highlight had to be watching all the Greek spectators go absolutely bonkers when their team was announced at the end of the roll call of nations. It was just really electric moment, even if the ceremonies had been eclipsed by news that Greece’s top track and field athlete was immersed in controversy after missing a drug test because he’d crashed his moped. Right on par with Vandenbroucke’s dog stories.
That’s it for now, but check back later on Saturday for a full report from the men’s road race. In the meantime, here’s a look at my best efforts to capture some of the Opening Ceremonies action. My little digicam spent most of the evening in a state of confusion, but you can still get the idea.